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Outrage over mob attack on Amnesty office •SERAP demands probe

By News Express on 21/03/2017

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Outrage has greeted the mob attack on the Amnesty International Office in Nigeria, with the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) calling on both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to “urgently instruct appropriate authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate (the) apparently sponsored and coordinated attacks . . . and ensure the safety and security of its (Amnesty’s) staff.”

It would be recalled that a group of protesters yesterday barricaded the Abuja office of Amnesty International and asked the international organisation to quit Nigeria within 24 hours.

But in a statement today signed by SERAP deputy director Timothy Adewale, the organisation called on Buhari and Osinbajo to “act swiftly to end the increasing and apparently sponsored attacks, intimidation, harassment and threats against Amnesty International Office in Nigeria and its staff. Any failure to hold to account those who may be responsible will invariably increase the vulnerability of civil society in the country, and strengthen the perception that attacks against NGOs and human rights workers can happen with impunity.”

The statement reads in part: “If the Buhari government does not take all necessary measures to immediately end the mob attack on Amnesty International or any other civil society group for that matter, SERAP will be compelled to take appropriate legal action nationally and internationally including approaching the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for a remedy.

“SERAP will continue to work to challenge any attempt to restrict, silence or eliminate the voices of credible civil society in the country. We urge the presidency to speak out strongly against intimidation and harassment of Amnesty International Office in Nigeria and its staff. Investigating the attacks against AI, naming and shaming the sponsors and bringing them to justice will send a powerful message of protection and support to civil society groups who stand up to speak truth to power.

“Any attack on Amnesty International Office in Nigeria or harassment and intimidation of its staff members is an assault on the entire human rights community in the country. Sponsoring protests against NGOs that have shown astonishing courage in their human rights work hurt those most in need, undermine access of Nigerian victims of human rights violations and abuses to justice, and contribute to a culture of impunity of perpetrators.

“This government has an obligation to support and protect civil society groups and human rights defenders against violence and sponsored attacks. Nigeria is a democratic society and the government can’t just sit back and watch reprisals, threats and increasing hostility to Amnesty International in particular and the NGO community in general.

“Under the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and international human rights law, everyone whose rights are violated is entitled to a right to an effective remedy. Exposing human rights violations and seeking redress for them is largely dependent on the degree of security enjoyed by civil society groups and human rights defenders. Protecting NGOs against sponsored attacks and ending impunity for such attacks is therefore a critical element in the promotion and protection of human rights in this country.

“While some may not like to hear some of the things Amnesty International has said, this in no way justifies this kind of mob attack on its office and staff members. The authorities should show commitment to protecting the right to freedom of expression and guarantee conditions for civil society to flourish.”

In a related reaction, veteran journalist, activist and lawyer, Mr. Richard Akinnola, also strongly condemned the development. Akinnola said in a statement issued in yesterday Lagos:

“I read with shock and utter consternation, that a group of persons, masquerading as Human Rights activists, today stormed the Abuja office of Amnesty International, giving the International Human Rights body a 24-hour ultimatum to quit the country.

“These protesters, ostensibly were protesting over a recent report of Amnesty, highlighting several alleged abuse of Human Rights and extra-judicial killings in the country.

“As one of the four founders of the first Human Rights body in Nigeria in October 1987, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), l find the action of the picketers as a disgrace and an embarrassment to the human Right Movement.

“In the CLO of yore, despite the fact that we were operating under a military government where we churned out several of such similar reports, no group of Nigerians ever picketed our office to close us down. What we normally encouraged was for the government or any group with contrary opinion to conduct its own investigation and issue its own report.

“Though Amnesty is the foremost Human Rights body in the world, its reports are not infallible. What any aggrieved body ought to do is to point out areas of either exaggeration, misrepresentation or wrong statistics.

“Amnesty International was founded in July 1961 by a lawyer, Peter Benenson. It has grown to be the foremost human rights body in the world with offices in all parts of the World. My colleagues and l got inspiration from Amnesty to form CLO in 1987. It is unfortunate that some ill-informed people, masquerading as human rights advocates are tarnishing this image. This is quite unfortunate.”

Source News Express

Posted 21/03/2017 10:00:57 PM

 

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